Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is one of the most iconic sights of New York. It is named after John D. Rockefeller Jr. who initiated its construction. Originally Rockefeller planned to erect a building of an opera house for Metropolitan Opera that would be surrounded by office buildings. However the stock exchange crisis in 1929 changed the situation drastically as investors cut any further cooperation and left Rockefeller no choice but to finance the project by himself and abandon the idea to construct an opera house. Architect Raymond Hood developed a number of designs in Art Deco style. The construction of the center had a paramount social and economic significance for New York due to the fact that those were the times of the Great Depression and tens of thousands of workers who desperately needed employment. In 1932 the famous Lunch atop a Skyscraper shot was made depicting 11 workers having their lunch while seated on a steel bar without safety on the level of the 69th floor. Some experts say that the photo was staged and montaged but featured real workers.

The greatest private construction project of modern times was finalized in 1939. It is interesting to note that the last of the four "European" was vacant. Managers were trying to rent it to German businesses and call it "Deutsches Haus". However, Rockefeller who disagreed with Hitler's politics rejected the idea. During the years of the Second World War British intelligence was stationed here, as well as the office of the future CIA director Allen Dulles. Today the center comprises 19 towers, among which are 14 1930s office buildings, 51st Street building constructed in 1947 and four towers built between the 1960s and 1970s. Rockefeller Center houses headquarters of major corporations and that of Christie's, one of the leading auction houses. The Radio City Music Hall is probably the most well-known tower as well as the GE Building skyscraper.

The centerpiece of Rockefeller Center is the GE Building that is home for NBC television network which you can visit with a tour. Its 65th floor Rainbow Room restaurant is the second highest restaurant in New York. During the construction of that last tower the Lunch atop a Skyscraper photo was taken. The lobby of the GE (General Electric) Building is decorated with the American Progress fresco by Spanish artist Josep Maria Sert. It was installed instead of a fresco by Mexican artist Diego Rivera called Man at the Crossroads, one of the fragments of which depicted May 1 demonstration in Moscow and Vladimir Lenin. Rockefeller categorically rejected the idea to present the fresco to the public and it was soon destroyed. On top of the tower there is Top of the Rock observation deck that offers stunning panoramas of New York. The center organizes a lot of different tours, for details see the official web.

The area of the center also features a gilded statue of Prometheus by Paul Manship which stands next to the Art Deco Atlas statue built in 1937 by Lee Lawrie. In the center of the complex there is an open air ice skating rink, which works in winter time and offers Engagement on Ice option. In late November or in early December a huge 20 m-high Christmas Tree is brought here and placed in front of the GE Building. This is the main Christmas Tree in New York, and its lighting is a long-waited annual event that is televised by NBC.

Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza
Opening hours: Top of the Rock daily 8 am – midnight; ticket office operates daily till 11 pm, the last elevator goes up at 11.15 pm.
How to reach: subway 53 St (E/M)